Day 226 Retail waste

While out walking today I went by the fruit shop and noticed a box of over ripe bananas  on the footpath by the door. I did a double take when I remembered I needed a couple of onions and picked up two of the old bananas as well thinking I could use them to make a cake. When I took them to the counter to pay there was no charge for the bananas which was what I was half expecting. I was happy with that and thanked the man and went on my way.

Later on when I was making my banana cake with my free bananas I got to thinking…there is more to this than just a couple of free bananas. This greengrocer could have thrown those bananas straight in the trash for fear that people would take them rather than purchase his less ripe bananas but he didn’t, he gave them away so they wouldn’t go to waste.

I have worked in retail off and on my whole life and I have seen some terrible waste due to the fact the companies choose to destroy product rather than donate it to charity or give it away to their customers or even staff members. They are afraid it will lose them a potential sale of a similar item if they do so, instead perfectly good products end up in land fill. One day I watched as about forty wheeled craft organizers (similar to carry on luggage bags) got thrashed with box knifes and thrown in the dumpster. What a waste.

Any wonder people resort to dumpster diving for their weekly grocery haul. Not only does it make economical sense but it is good food but not perfect enough to sell on the shelves. Makes me feel good about my two bananas and the reduced price cheese I often buy on Fridays just because the expiry date is looming.

Anyway good for the green grocer I will buy more of my produce there in future.


This is an old sleeping bag of my daughters. We gave it to the son of a friend and he has had a wonderful time camping out in the lounge room of his home on weekends.

Bridget Sleeping Bag

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. I definitely DO NOT understand NOT donating items to charity at least! Target does a pretty good job with that. I see things from their “house brands” there all the time. Do they not understand it is a tax write-off (at least in the USA)? I mean, I understand that and I’m just a “piddly” little consumer! ::slaps forehead::

    Thanks for bringing attention to this fact.

    • Hi Carrie B,
      it sure does make your blood boil doesn’t it. There have been times when one company I worked for donated stuff to charity and then other times they just destroyed stuff. I couldn’t work it out either.

  2. The amount of suitcases and purses from Kate Hill that end up at the dumpster at DFO is ridiculous. I’d happily take most of them home to use if they hadn’t slashed the hell out out of them before hand … quite honestly, I think it’s revolting.

    • Hi Bridget,
      wouldn’t it make more sense to give them to the loyal customers or donate them to charity. Maybe the staff of these companies who have to pyshically perpetrate this waste should come up with a better alternative and submit the idea to their head office managements.

  3. Just shows how spineless a lot of retail employees are when it comes to standing up to head office. I would definitely be complaining to my bosses if this was being carried out in my store, although that would never happen because we try to sell every single item we have … even if it is faulty beyond repair … many times, faulty shoes will sell for $5 to people who are happy to make them into something else.

    • Hi Bridget,
      getting the supply chain correct in a business is key to less waste and better profit margins. The buyers have to understand the trends yet cater to all tastes but then once the product choice has been made another person needs to estimate the correct number to acquire. So many ways they fall down in this are. I say err on the side of caution better to be slightly understocked than grossly overstocked and waste product like we have mentioned here. Lets hope someone is getting their butt kicked when waste like this occurs making them more cautious next time. That being said it can be very hard to predict how retail sales eb and flow in the current economic climate.

  4. The reason given to me at the last retail job I had (ages ago, but a high end store that’s still around) is that some folks will attempt to return the merch for cash. I’m not saying all charity receivers do this, the vast majority do not, but it’s been known to happen.

    • Hi Wesa,
      welcome to 365lessthings comment section. I don’t believe we have heard from you before so thank you for chiming in.
      I understand this is an issue for them there are always people that take advantage. I am sure there must be ways to mark and item so it can be identified as a give-away so this becomes more difficult to pull off this kind of theft.
      The bad element sure make it hard for others to do the right thing.

  5. My friend used to work at Dunkin Donuts. At the end of the night they are not allowed to give away/take home/give to a food shelf the left over product. They have to throw away DOZENS of donuts, muffins and bagels each night. He was told the “no donations” rule has to do with possible lawsuits. BS!

    My son’s teacher also works part time at WalMart. She used to be able to take home craft supplies, like the last 6 inches of ribbon, that they were throwing away. She used all the stuff in her Head Start classroom, but she can’t do that anymore, it has to be thrown away.

    I understand that people might wait until something is free or nearly free before buying it if they knew that was going to happen, but to not even be able to give it to an employee for a preschool? Why would businesses rather throw things away than tout the fact that they make donations to schools? It would go a long way for their PR and probably make teachers happier to shop there.

    • Hi Lady in a Smalltown,
      the food thing I understand but there are still ways to do this (under the table so to speak) that avoids the chance of lawsuits. Some companies actually bag food stuffs up so to keep it hygenic and place it beside their bumpsters. Word gets out that they do so to the right people so that is doesn’t go to waste. I was actually heartened to see a van with sign writing that read “food rescue service” here in my town in Australia the other day so maybe we don’t have as many restrictions.
      The law suit issue saddly is something the the USA are notorious for throught the rest of the western world. It is one way for the poor to get richer while the rich get the picture for a change and it gets well utilised. Unfortunately it is catching on here as well.
      The story about your son’s teacher is just sad though. What a waste.
      Sure there are always going to be the people that will take advantage of the situation (and why not) but they are the minority that aren’t going to pay full price under any circumstances anyway.

  6. I manage a soft pretzel business and actually find that giving away the leftovers at the end of the night aids in MORE sales in the future. Sometimes I’ll shove an extra free one with what they are purchasing. If I’m desperate at the end, I’ll hand a bag to some passerby or to the employees of surrounding businesses. It puts a smile on their face, it’s tasty, not wasteful, and they remember it!
    Once I gave a man who was in the hospital an extra free one (his wife smuggled it in hehehe) and that created a lasting relationship and he comes in almost every week. 😀

    There are also nights where I DON’T have any leftovers, so it’s not entirely a regular thing which means there aren’t people waiting around at the end who would otherwise buy one at regular price.

    • Hi Ginger,
      this is exactly how it ought to be. You probably increase business by good customer service.
      When I was only about 16 I worked in a book store where we also sold lottery tickets. While serving some interstate tourist one day the gentleman said to me “are you always this cheerful”. Before I had a chance to answer another man waiting to be served behind him said “I live at the other end of town and I walk passed every other lottery store to buy my tickets here because she always give such friendly service”. I have never forgotten that and it just goes to prove when all else is equal being nice will always win the day.

  7. Hi Colleen, I just noticed that you have an avatar now. Nice to see your face.

    The wastefulness in retail makes me ill when I’m confronted by it. Not too long ago, the NYT did a piece about retailers such as H&M damaging their perfectly good merchandise and dumping them instead of donating them to charity. Every now and them, I see bakeries dumping perfectly good baked goods to make room for a fresh batch.

    As for the freegans, I think they’re smart to take advantage of foraged/salvaged goods. If it does no damage to their dignity, I say go for it.

    • Hi Belinda,
      I was wondering when someone would comment on my photo, thank you for that. Maybe you are the only one who cares what I look like, boo hoo! lol If you have a look at my About Page there is a bigger version. Anyway enough about me.

      H&M should be ashamed, if there is one thing that can be donated to anywhere in the world it is clothing. Shame Shame Shame!!! And there must be an outlet for baked goods. Read Gingers comment and see what she does about this. I’m with you good on the freegans!

  8. Starbuck’s donates all their leftover food (and sometimes outdated coffee) to food pantries if someone is willing to regularly pick them up. My sister in law was the pick up person for years at her local Starbuck’s.

    If you live near a Trader Joe’s, by all means, support that store! TJ’s gives away their food a couple of days BEFORE the expiration date to food pantries. I know this because I volunteered weekly at our church’s food pantry for a year and all the food came from Trader Joe’s.

    Our farmer’s market is very generous, too, at the end of the morning. And they give away or trade a lot of their seconds and bruised food.

    Unfortunately, some stores are so much more into making the money than serving the community. When I know a store is helpful in this area, I make a point to patronize it. I say, “Let my money speak for my opinions. If you’re stingy with your merchandise, I can be stingy with my money.”

    • Hi Willow,
      well that gives me hope that at least some companies are doing the right thing. I am with you on making a point to patronize those that are serving the community.

  9. There’s a church-run resale shop a couple of blocks from where I live and I love to donate stuff to them because they have good things, low prices, and “free days” at the end of winter and summer where you can go in and get what you want. Nobody ever seems to abuse it, and the shop doesn’t get overloaded for their small space. Just took a truckload of stuff left over from my old cookery there. Got some xmas stuff I’m taking there in a few weeks, too.

  10. I used to work part-time for a catering company, and it made me sick to see all the food that was thrown away. If there was food leftover after an event, the servers were allowed to eat a meal right there, but we couldn’t take any food home. Even the client who ordered and paid for the food for their event couldn’t take the leftovers. They weren’t allowed to donate the food for fear of suing. Giant platters of sandwiches, pasta, chips, desserts ect all in the garbage.

    • Hi Debbie,
      and the problem isn’t within the company it is the over sensitive health regulations and the ease with which law suits can distroy businesses. It is a difficult balance to maintain.

  11. I’m late to comment on this day, but I went to a catered party at a fancy bowling alley recently where the staff boxed up all the left over gourmet pizzas and salad and put out take-away bags. Every guest was able to grab some pizza and salad on their way out. It was so nice.

    • Hi Cindy,
      isn’t it interesting that some places are prepared to run the gauntlet when it comes to being sued for food poisoning and others won’t even consider taking the risk.


  1. […] Ginger on Day 226:- I manage a soft pretzel business and actually find that giving away the leftovers at the end of the night aids in MORE sales in the future. Sometimes I’ll shove an extra free one with… Read More […]